REI flipped Black Friday expectations to win lifelong fans - Saxum


REI flipped Black Friday expectations to win lifelong fans

As Black Friday lurches closer, big brands continue to push the 2015 holiday shopping season further up into Thanksgiving Day. But not every brand is following suit. Outdoor gear retailer REI recently launched its #OptOutside campaign to announce it will temporarily close its 143 stores and suspend all online orders this Black Friday. Wait — what?

The move to skip the year’s biggest traditional sales opportunity seems counter-intuitive at first, like asking Kevin Durant to take a catnap during a tiebreaker game. Still, the shift makes sense when considered through the lens of their customers’ values. Let’s break down two things REI executed well:

1) REI aligned its brand with their customers’ passion.

Authenticity receives widespread appreciation, but most brands struggle to translate well-wishing into tangible action. In one day, REI is sending a smack-in-the-face message: “We care more about empowering your outdoor experiences than making the most money possible.” This move had to generate new lifelong fans for REI — and with good reason.

  Saxum Account Director Amy Blackburn offered her take on the campaign’s strategy toward consumers:

How a company treats its employees is becoming an increasingly important metric for consumers. Further, recreational time is also a commodity that consumers value. Consumers are recognizing they don’t have to submit to artificial time limits for holiday deals. I also predict that other companies will begin to follow suit with similar Black Friday methodologies. The novelty of shopping on Black Friday and Thanksgiving is wearing off as consumers are valuing time as much (or more than) how far they can stretch a dollar. 


2) REI leveraged social media to speak consumers’ language, provided value and engaged one-on-one.

REI’s Twitter feed doesn’t read like a self-obsessed marketing machine blaring sales, coupons and limited-time offers. Instead, the brand is constantly reaching out to individual fans to promote the campaign’s website. REI-reply Once fans land on the microsite, they’re offered a mini-suite of tools to inspire their offline adventures. One tab guides fans to find nearby destinations to hike, bike or kayak. Another page enables fans to create shareable images to declare their decision to choose fresh air and woodland trails over packed store aisles. Saxum’s Senior Digital Strategist Aran Coleman agreed the #OptOutside campaign appears to be successfully distinguishing itself in a crowded Black Friday field:

REI has found a revolutionary way to break through the social media noise during one of the busiest and most competitive times of the year for consumer brands. They’re capitalizing on something other than profits and it’s paying off.

So far, the strategy appears to be paying off with favorable chatter from fans and influencers online.

Without a single coupon, 5 a.m. doorbuster sale or online promo code, REI may have navigated a new path for authentically driving holiday sales by connecting with consumer values. We’d love to hear your thoughts about REI’s #OptOut campaign on Twitter. Mention us and let’s chat!

Post written by Matt Woods, Saxum intern.


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